Last night I got so consumed telling the story of Lazarus that I kinda ran out of time when I wanted to draw out the theology a little bit better. Throughout the whole message I was kept emphasizing that our conception of God’s love needs to change and that this story of Lazarus should reshape how we think of God’s love. God, because he loves us, is committed to giving us the best gifts, not just good gifts. What is the best gift he could give? Well, I think from this story you would have to say it is to see the glory of God…
Remember, in v. 5-6 it says that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus, SO he waited two days before he went to visit, knowing Lazarus was ill and that Lazarus was going to die. That seems callous, harsh and not very loving. After all, Jesus has the power to alleviate Lazarus’ sickness and prevent Mary and Martha’s grief. Why wouldn’t he do it, if he loved them?
Honestly, he loved them and so he didn’t prevent the death or the grief so that he could give them an even better gift than a healing. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus (and the disciples) so much, that he allowed Lazarus to die so that he might show them the glory of God! Jesus tell his disciples as much in v. 4 and says to Martha in v. 40 “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”. There it is. That’s the best gift, that’s the reason Jesus let Lazarus die - so that he would have the occasion to display the glory of God, knowing this is the best gift he could give the Bethany family (even better than a healing).
As Piper says repeatedly in his books, the best gifts God can give his people is himself. That is the highest good in the gospel. “Justification is good news because it makes us stand accepted by the one whose glory we want to see and savor above all things. Forgiveness is good news because it cancels all the sins that keeps me from seeing and enjoying the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Removal of wrath and salvation from hell are good news because now in my escape from eternal misery I find eternal pleasure beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ. Eternal life is good news because this is eternal life, Jesus said, that they know me and him who sent me. And freedom from pain and sickness and conflict are good news because, in my freedom from pain, I am no longer distracted from the fullest enjoyment of the glory of Christ who is the image of God”